Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winding down the west coast towards Satun


With the cruising season winding down we made the decision to commit to having some work done in the ship yard in Satun. So we made a slow meander back down the west coast of Thailand, past all our favourite spots.

Rolly Nai Yang. Check the angle of the yacht on the left.
We had a hot and uncomfortable day motoring all of the 50 NMs from the Similans to Nai Yang in rolling and confused seas. We were hot and bothered and fed up by the time we reached Nai Yang. The reward is a great anchorage with clear water, a white sandy beach and restaurants galore. Unfortunately the rolly conditions we had out at sea also rolled into the anchorage. It's OK if you have a catamaran but the mono hulls dipped and curtseyed relentlessly. Fed up with living on a moving platform we ducked around the corner to Bang Tao where we could tuck behind the headland for some peaceful days.

That's a big cleaver for a little girl!
Bang Tao is much quieter and we enjoyed the more simple local restaurants along its shores. I loved seeing this little girl playing "helping" with the rather large cleaver. No super protective parents here! The children are part of the natural fabric of life where they are obviously loved and important, but aren't always centre stage. They seem to learn to respect that things like fire and sharp knives are dangerous from experience, not from being wrapped in cotton wool.

Nai Harn

Nai Harn towards the south western side of Phuket is many a sailor's dream. From the bar you can peruse the boats and watch the sun slip to the horizon on yet another perfect Thai day. Laundry is done fairly cheaply and restaurants and the usual tourist stalls are a plenty.
It's hard to find nice places that aren't overrun with tourists, but one very special place that hasn't been spoilt yet is Taratau. The island is quiet and the facilities basic. There is a large restaurant,  come canteen, that caters for large groups where the food is good and cheap. Generally however you have to make sure you have everything you need as there are no shops at all. A Seven 11 will definitely not be found here.
During our rambling we were very impressed to find the Taratao power station that consisted of an array of solar panels as well as a brand spanking new generator. Rob's eyes lit up when he saw the massive battery bank. Many of the islands that we visit  are solar powered and come six or seven o'clock it's light out folks!

Koh Taratao . Solar powered island.

Now that's a battery bank!


Taratao also has a very impressive cave which you reach by long tail boat. Access through the cave is via floating rafts that are pulled along by ropes. The formations are amazing and glisten in your torch light. With our guide we rafted and walked deep into the pitch black caverns far into the hillside. The guide had no English and we little Thai so it was a quiet tour! It was a little disconcerting to see him smoking and dropping his butts into the water. In Australia that would have been a hanging offense. Regulations and controls over areas of natural beauty are tightly supervised. (Unfortunately, not so the Great Barrier Reef but don't get me started!)

Bat Cave Taratao

Back form the Bat Cave steering by foot

It was with some sadness that we left beautiful Taratao and reluctantly pointed our bow towards Satun and what we knew would be a hard three months in the ship yard and on the hard stand. On the positive side we were looking forward to seeing our old friends at the yard from two years ago and giving The Doctor a bit of a well needed spruce up.

Our last beautiful anchorage before we go to the ship yard.

Next post is from PSS shipyard where you will see The Doctor transformed into a mega yacht! Well not really, but a much classier version of the old girl.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015



Koh Similan early in the morning before tourists

The beautiful Similans are located only 34 nautical miles off the west coast of Thailand. They are an absolute treasure with incredibly clear waters and masses of huge fish. Because of the National park status of the islands, the fish have been allowed to grow into handsome big specimens.  The island group comprises of nine islands, hence the name Similan, which comes from the Malay “Sembilan” or number nine.  Unfortunately, the islands are so close to the mainland that it opens the door to mass tourism, with literally thousands of day trippers coming to the islands every day in the dry season. Thank goodness for the raging winds and rain of the wet season.  Perhaps the islands have a chance to recover from the tourist invasion in the off season.

Koh Similan

Being on our own boat we have the luxury of being able to tarry after the hordes of tourists have gone. We can enjoy in peace the pristine beauty of the islands for a few hours in the early morning and evenings. The snorkelling is spectacular and we went out two or three times every day until we felt quite water logged. Apart from the rich array of fish and turtles there is one island just north of Koh Muang where massive smooth boulders the size of houses tumble down through the deep sapphire water into 35 metres of deep clear blue.

These are like the huge boulders that you can dive around in 35 mts of clear water. Koh Similan

Most yachties don’t stay long at the Similans. Some have been so miserable that they have had to beat a hasty retreat in the early hours of the morning because of the constant swell that plagues the islands. We stayed four nights. Of the four, one night was dreadful due to the rolling of the boat, the second was bearable and we were lucky enough to find anchorages where we had two good night’s sleep. It is testing though, and we played a not so amusing game of musical moorings in search of a calm night.



This might help...


You can see the impact of tourism by the amount of plastic rubbish that floats through some anchorages, especially the more popular island of Koh Muang. Rob decided to do his civic duty and motored around the anchorage using our scoop net to collect some of the detritus.  Two rangers became very suspicious, perhaps thinking that this man was actually fishing in the marine park! When Rob held up the collected plastic they smiled broadly, with relief, I suspect.

We had mixed feelings about the Similans:

Crystal clear water, beautiful, spectacular, magical.

Too many tourists, too much rubbish, challenging and uncomfortable anchorages.

Sorry we went? No. Go again? Yes!

Post Script: The Thai government has now started implementing more stringent regulations to protect these islands. They are now capping the number of tourists to 200 per day and are requiring tour boats to take their rubbish back with them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From sleepy Surins to cruisy Koh Phra Thong

We had some urgent paperwork to attend to concerning both Diana's visa and boat clearance so it was time to leave the tranquil idyll of the Surins and head for Nai Yang on the Phuket west coast. We left with a 15-20 kt easterly blowing and so it was beam reach bliss all the way and The Doctor proving what a fine sailing vessel she really is. Miraculously we sorted all bureaucracy in under an hour, did 3 big shops at Villa, Tesco and Makro, found a beautiful gift for Megs special birthday and got it posted off and had all provisions on board and cold beer in hand by 9 pm. What a day!!!!!

Now that's a flat anchorage

We thought we should spend some time on the inland waterway just north of Ban Thap Lamu, the navy base anchorage north of Nai Yang. Flat anchorages without the incessant roll that plagues the west coast of Thailand in the dry season  were calling  like some siren call in the early and sleepless hours of morning. The bar crossing at the southern entrance was pathetic compared to the Ballina crossing we did a few years back (refer to the now best seller Tell Tales) . Once inside, the sea flattened out and it was still, flat and roll free. Some of you might not fully understand what roll is so here's a quick explanation. Wind out at sea creates swell which moves to shore and then breaks. We try and anchor out of the swell but on this coast it's not easy as it comes from the west. Swell is roll and when you lie side on, it rocks the boat from side to side as you would a baby in a bassinet. We have a ship's bell at the navigation table and when it's bad the bell striker actually hits the bell and we hear a loud ring. That is our signal to abandon ship and we pack up personal items, Motley and phones and sleep ashore on the sand. Not really but it's a thought. The inland waterway, thanks to the sand bar, has no swell and it's like being in a marina, ahhhhh bring it on.
Wilson's new buddy

Wilson is an old soccer ball we found lying on a beach somewhere and it lived in the dinghy. You may remember the fine movie with Tom Hanks called Castaway where he has a Wilson brand soccer ball which  he paints a face on and he grows to see it as his one and only friend. Tragically, it floats off and he swims out to save it but to no avail. Well, we found it it in Thailand and it was chucked into the dinghy where it became a nuisance. Everywhere you put your feet, there was Wilson asking to be moved or thrown back in the sea. Well, we pulled up outside a small village on the mainland side of the water way, went ashore, had dinner and wandered back to the dinghy. On the way back a vegie truck pulled up and as I was sourcing fresh produce Diana headed back to the dinghy. Some school kids had seen Wilson in the dingy and had taken him and were playing soccer on the concrete pad near the jetty. Diana joined in and the game switched to keep it off. There were squeals of fun and all the local mamas and papas watched on with smiles all round. These kids lived on an island and got to school each day via long tail. As they climbed aboard to head home one of then walked towards Diana to return the ball. But Wilson had found a new home and she promptly offered it back. It was flat and slightly perished but it was a ball that worked like balls do. Their grins say it all.

School's done ........going home with Wilson

On the seaward side of the water way is an island called Koh Prah Thong and its unique in a topographical sense. Its composed of grey sand and is mostly savannah. Paper barks are everywhere and the island is covered in sand tracks.

savannah complete with sand tracks look close and you'll see a herd of elephants just below that far hill

 We took a half day tour on the back of a Toyota ute and as the photos will suggest, it was like being back in Oz or maybe the open plains of Africa.. Dry, sandy, treeless and flat. The only thing missing were a herd of elephants, or a giraffe loping along. I suggested they make up some models and place them here and there but it was seriously lost in translation. There is a big bird that is native to the island and it's some type of crane. They float around on the thermals and look like a small plane looking for a landing site.

early morning magic in Thailand

 We loved this anchorage and stayed nearly a week. There are low key resorts with great home cooked food and the time seemed to slide easily away. The Thai massage we had on the beach was quite special. The lady is an instructor and she is busy, especially since she charges 500 bht and the flash Golden Buddah  resort wants 900. We booked for 8am and I went first, Diana decided to go for a walk along the beach. Early morning on these islands is magical. There is the soft wash of waves on shore, the sweet sea air, the swish of the casuarinas that line the shore and before you know it you are gone. There was something very soothing about this island, something gentle and unhurried. Something  that makes Thailand a hard place to leave. Till next time. Rob.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

The West coast of Thailand: Phuket to Ranong

The magical island of Koh Phayam
At last we broke free of the marina and made our way around the bottom of Phuket Island and up the west coast of Thailand. The NE monsoon was establishing itself which makes the west coast a well protected area for sailing. One of the first stops was the infamous Patong Bay. It's not really Thailand at all with its sleezy bars and Thais looking to make  a quick buck. Although an unusually quiet year, there were still lots of Aussie, Russian and German tourists. Russians are a big influence in Phuket with  many signs and menus in Russian language. Desptite all that,  Patong is a good place to stock up with supplies of food and drinks. The anchorage was abysmal though and the NW swell rolled the boat miserably from side to side. We had to hold on when moving around the boat and pouring a cup of coffee was only an approximation, with most of the coffee ending up on the bench. We had to stay one night unfortunately but left at first light in the morning.

We shared the busy anchorage of Patong, Phuket with this big baby. They weren't rolling!

We had set ourselves a goal to get right to one of the most northern islands on the west coast, just short of the Myanmar border by Christmas. The cruising grapevine promised that the bay at Koh Phayam was spectacular and traditionally a place for orphans to share Christmas. Five days of uncomfortable sailing with the wind and  short nasty waves on the nose got us there in plenty of time. We sailed in company with and old mate from Fremantle on his boat Watanie II. It was worth the bash north. Beautiful white sandy beach, low key restaurants ashore and a quiet island safe enough to explore on motor bike.

Koh Phayam....ah

Twenty boats filed into the bay prior to Christmas, with friends old and new friends on Honeymoon, Rum Runner, Wandoo, Muscat,  Fayaway and others. Some of us joined up for a scrumptious lunch at a French run restaurant overlooking the water. Days idled past filled with socializing with friends and exploring the island.
New Year was a blast and the best one ever. The venue was the Hippy Bar right on the beach. The place is constructed from recycled wood from the tsunami, old bits of coiled rope and flotsam. It's very creative but it's hard to see how it all holds together. It is run by some very cool Rasta Thai guys who mix a mean Mojito and play very danceable music. We danced the night away and finally brought in the new year by setting off paper lanterns on the beach. 

Paper lanterns to bring in the new year 

The navy ship anchored in the bay let off fireworks from the back of their boat. I can't ever see the Australian Navy getting into the New Year like that!

The Hippy Bar. a great venue for New Years Eve

Part of the Hippy Bar. Would it pass survey??

 We did a day trip by ferry to the city of Ranong so Rob could have his passport stamped. It's a functional bustling town with good supermarkets and probably every service you would ever need. I made a futile attempt to have The Doctor's boat stay extended. It was not something the customs had done before so after two hours of polite paper rustling I suggested it might be easier if I went to Phuket to do the check in. They quickly, and with relief I think, agreed.

All on one anchor!

One of the fishing boats came and anchored about 15 metres away which is usually considered pretty close. The skipper started doing charades with Rob and it went something like " You come" Rob dutifully went over with a bowl and his wallet looking forward to a feed of nice fresh prawns. He got the prawns alright but no repayment required. The skipper wanted a lift ashore in our dinghy so he could meet up with his girlfriend. The whole procedure was repeated several days later when we met him on the beach and he needed a lift back to his boat. AND we got another big bowl of prawns which we cooked up and shared with friends.

After nearly two weeks in beautiful Koh Phayam we pulled anchor and pointed the bow south again.
This time instead of hugging the coast we made our way to the off lying Surin Islands.
 Only about 30 miles south, we had the wind behind us and a great sail. Good sailing doesn't happen too often in Thailand due to lack of wind so when it happens it's just icing on the cake. Rather than taking turns to be up on deck to keep an eye out for fish traps and nets we both sat in the cockpit lapping up the wonderful sensation of motor off and wind in the sails.

Going ashore for lunch. Surin Islands 

We tried most of the anchorages around the Surin Islands, but only one was flat and escaped the swell coming in from the Bay of Bengal. We anchored there first and in retrospect we should never have left. 

Rated as one of our best ever anchorages 

It was right up there with the best anchorage EVER. A best ever anchorage ticks the following boxes. Protected from the prevailing wind and swell. White sandy beach. Clear water. Interesting snorkelling. Hard sand and shade for doing yoga on the beach. Just plain beautiful.

The perfect yoga beach 

Being keen on doing yoga whenever possible, I gathered up my mat and towel and paddled to the nearest beach before breakfast.  A monkey was on the beach, but being shy and not that into yoga disappeared into the jungle. After gently moving along the hermit crabs , I spread out the mat and had a wonderful hour of yoga with the lapping of the water as background music. I was just into the last few minutes of meditation when I heard a mad splashing at the waters edge only a few feet away. Unbelievably quite a large fish had landed at my feet! What to do? It would be a perfect meal for two. As I was wondering how to capture it, it flipped itself back into the water. Initially disappointed, I then decided the fish deserved to live as it had obviously already escaped the jaws of something large that had chased it onto the beach.

Surin Islands 

We shared the anchorage with a couple of other boats and joined them for drinks on the beach at sunset after we had picked fresh oysters off the rocks. Cant get much better than that!

Monday, December 22, 2014

What's been happening since the last blog

on our way to Krabi on board the ferry
Well, its been a while since we posted anything for you patient reader/readers out their (actually not that long ago it seems) so this will be a what's been going on, catch up blog thingy. OK, lets start at the very beginning.
The house in Khok Kloy blog Diana assures me, she is half way through so I will leave well alone....but add simply that it was a good idea at the time and that living alongside a fairly substantial creek/river is not as romantic as you might think.

We'd only been in the house a few hours when I opened my emails to read the breaking news that my Mum had taken a fall on her cruise of the Kimberley and had been evacuated back to Fremantle Hospital with a broken hip. A real bummer as she had been so excited about this adventure and at 89 years of age, these trips were bound to become more problematical. I rang daily and it sounded like she was in for a longish period of rehab so I decided to fly home and help her through it. I was due back in a month or so for another gastro check up so it wasn't a major upheaval. I spent about 3 weeks as a live in carer and it was a useful time on a number of fronts. It meant she could rest up and let the healing happen. It was also good to be able to help out with the insurance claims and associated paperwork which became quite involved. Peg mended very quickly, being ill or in anyway incapacitated does not sit gently with this lady and a fierce independence was probably the best medicine she was ever going to get.

When she was suitably mobile and good to go back driving, I took my leave and headed off to Anchor View in Busselton. Diana flew down from Phuket about a week later and we had planned to spend about a month in Perth catching up with family and getting my next all clear form Spiro. Sounds like a plan I hear you say but wait.......there's a twist. Our place in Freo had bookings (3 days max) scattered throughout September. It meant we were forever packing up and cleaning one house, and then doing the same 5 days later in the other. Add to that the interminable driving we always do in Perth it made for a taxing few weeks.

So we are now on board flight VA 234 Perth to Phuket with check in luggage full of cat grass, tomato chutney, seeds, lemon butter, fig jam and other items of huge interest to the baggage scanners. It was school holidays so imagine a flight full of families all excited to be on their way to Phuket for their 5 days in the sun. We had seats in the aft section of the plane, very close to the one and only toilet in cattle class. The toilet was hardly used before the mid-flight meal and things were pretty cosy. Once they had all eaten it was like the boxing day sales were on and it was first to the toilet gets the biggest bargain. I was in the aisle seat and due to aircraft designers brief to fit maximum number of human cargo into an inhumanly allocated space, they did away with the aisle. That's right, no aisle. I'm joking, there was an aisle but it was some kind of design joke wide enough for stick figures only. Maybe they had stick figures on the drawings and someone took it seriously.

Anyway, upshot was that it was like being in the middle of a wallaby v all blacks scrum with the all blacks, probably Richie McGaw using his elbow far too much. What is it with toilets on a plane and why do people need to go 3, 4 times......I was counting. Add to this a screaming infant with a register close, but not close enough to the sound barrier and you have life at 30,000 feet. There was a news item recently about some guy on a flight who was trying to open the main door only to be subdued by other do gooder pasengers. Buddy, I know what you're thinking!

Oh, before I forget, Diana also had pneumonia. She copped a cough in the face from our youngest grandson and it just got worse from there. The Doc had given the all clear to fly but it was an arduous flight. Her recuperation was therefore carried out in the aft bunk with Motley curled around her python like while I carried on normal duties. She recovered within a week and it was time therefore to head to our favourite spot in Phang Nga, Koh Yao Noi.
The floating Krathongs

We had a couple of weeks here hanging off a big mooring just outside Thakhao pier and spent the time really getting to know the island. On the first full moon in November Thai Buddhists have a ceremony called Loy Krathong. They make little floats called kathongs, using 8 inch thick slices of banana tree stem and then decorate them with shaped banana leaf and bright yellow flowers. In the middle sits a special long burning candle and the idea is that when the tide turns you push the float out to sea and it floats off carrying with it all the negative stuff we accumulate. It's a  beautiful idea and typical of Buddhist thinking. We made our krethongs and took them back to the boat to be sent off from the swim platform at the turn of the tide. Mine only had a tea candle which lasted about 5 seconds before the wind blew it out. Still, it floated off in the night and with it some of the stuff I'd like to be rid off. There is one thing about tides though that we forgot. They go out and they come in. Next morning floating around us were out floats gratefully returned on the incoming tide. Finding Nirvana maybe isn't so easy after all.

a new piece of deck going in

We are now back in Yacht Haven getting some jobs sorted on the boat and also fixing Diana's retirement visa. This is like home for us now and our evening meals up at Penns are like family gatherings as various yachties gather to eat her famous Thai food, drink the ice cold Singha and talk  of things that go wrong on boats. There is never a break in the conversation, believe me. Till next time. Rob


The house in among the trees
With The Doctor safely moored at Yacht Haven Marina at the top end of Phuket, and the wet season ahead of us we thought some time on land would be interesting. Nick, the marina manager mentioned that there might be a house available right on their street near the small town of Kok Kloi.
Before we knew it the front door was swinging open to an amazing little house in the jungle  overlooking a babbling stream. It certainly had the wow factor with a huge western style kitchen and comfortable living room all opening up with bi fold doors, to a big shaded veranda.

Best spot in the house

Terms were negotiated and we packed up the cat and a few clothes and moved in on a Saturday. Before we had even fully unpacked Rob checked the internet connection and our email. Bad news completely took the shine off the day. Rob's mum had taken a fall and broken her hip while on a trip to the Kimberly in far north Western Australia. She was being airlifted by Flying Doctor back to Perth and her condition was uncertain. After many emails to and fro, Rob decided that he needed to get back home to support her when she was discharged from hospital.

The swimming pool

Our stay in the house changed from a few months to a few weeks while we waited on news about Rob's mum's recovery. She was discharged in record time and Rob went home to ease the transition home. She is an amazing 89 year old who's determination to get well again meant that she was back on her feet and walking in a very short time.

The bustling town of Kok Kloi
In the mean time we made the most of our jungle house. It was situated only a short five minute drive to the typical Thai town of Kok Kloi. It has a reasonable Tesco super market and fabulous early morning and Sunday morning markets. The women sellers at the markets were friendly and helpful and very patient with my poor efforts in their language. We had fun going to the markets and getting to know life in a typical Thai town. The joy was the authenticity of a town that was free of tourists and we found we soon got into the rhythm of  the place.

I love tropical fruit! 

Future chicken roasts

Rob had a craving for a real western style chicken roast one Sunday. Only a little perturbed by the chickens with their feet doing a Mexican wave, we selected the plumpest looking specimen. Back home in the kitchen, Rob quickly slipped into the well oiled (excuse the pun) routine of rubbing the chicken with butter, peeling the potatoes and readying the roasting pan. Curiously the chicken seemed to lack the cavity where you usually put the stuffing or herb.
 "Aaargh! This chicken still has its gizzards" yells Rob as he does a chicken run around the kitchen.
"All you have to do is split it from its bum to its chest and get them out" the veteran chicken plucker (me) says.
"It's got poop in there!!!" cries Rob as his face turns ashen.
"I'm not eating THIS!!!"
We did, but our heart wasn't into the idea any more and what's more, it was so tough and rubbery any remaining enthusiasm was lost by the relentless chewing required to get the poor foul down..

Elephant going home after a day's work. Khao Sok National Park

We rented a car as well as the house so had time to explore the local area with its beautiful Wats (Buddhist temples) and national parks. On one drive we were lucky to see some elephants out with their keepers. The country side is stunning with lush jungle and towering mountains.

The block
We were so taken with the house and the general area that we started looking at land. This one was nearby and had its own little stream. We had the house designed in our heads, but the owner wasn't ready to sell.

There was a bit of a down side to the picture of the beautiful house near the trickling brook. Being the wet season, it rained and rained and then bucketed down! The beautiful babbling brook became a raging torrent that spilled over its banks and instead of tinkling, roared day and night. It was so loud we had to close the windows at night.

The stream after wet season rains.

We had a great few weeks in our jungle house and made good friends from neighbors living nearby.
Next wet season we might do something similar, but on the nearby island of Koh Yao Noi. We love the idea of slow travel. I you like a place, stay a while. Breathe it in, learn the codes, live the life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I wonder if they knew to look for the pot of gold.

Not to be put off by the monsoonal weather we set out once more into the magnificent Phang Nga Bay which lies tucked in between the holiday island of Phuket and mainland Thailand. Our first day on anchor had all the right signs with this majestic rainbow embracing the sky.

Wrapped in rainbow!

We have a saying on board our boat when things are going well. "We're going to pay for this!" There's a ledger you see, finely balanced with negatives and positives, red and black. Too much into the black and the bills start coming in. Too much into the red and there's got to be a rainbow coming our way.
Anyway we got the rainbow, now we had to pay. On this trip into the bay unprecedented winds blew with great ferocity from the north west sending mighty bullets into the most protected of anchorages. The anchor dragged, the wind howled and the rain came down, not in sheets but blankets.

Pan Yi or the Sea Gypsy Village as it is known, promised us a reasonable anchorage. It was with great curiosity that we motored cautiously up through a fairly deep channel which threaded its way through the shallow waters of the north of the bay. We were keen to see this unusual village that we had heard so much about.

Approaching Pan Yi ,commonly called The Sea Gypsy Village

As we dropped the anchor we were amazed at the size of this town built almost entirely over the water. There are 360 families or 1,600 people living in this floating fishing village. It is a Muslim village with a beautiful mosque that glows like a second sun in the morning light. On this trip of rainbows we were lucky enough to see the domes lit by the sun and a rainbow that appeared to point to the largest of the minarets.

Blessed by a rainbow

The origin of the village makes an interesting story. In the 18th century three nomadic Malay fishing families made their way north  from Java in search of good fishing grounds . Legend has it that it was agreed that if one of them found a good place to settle they would place a flag high on the hill. The name of the village is "flag" in their original language. The inhabitants are originated from those first three families.

Fishing is still important in Pan Yi

Today fishing is still an important part of village life, but tourism also contributes a huge income. In high season, November to March there can be 3000 tourists daily! There are numerous restaurants facing the water and further into the village there are narrow lane ways crowded with stalls selling tourist nick knacks.

An island with a fur bonnet!

Stall holders selling clothes, jewelry and food stuffs clamor for your attention

As we wandered through the back streets of the village we discovered the amazing mosque, still under construction or renovation, we couldn't tell, and people going about their lives as we all do, all over the world. Some houses looked quite suburban with pot plants and picket fences. It was easy to forget that it was all suspended over water.

The mosque is a place for prayer and a meeting place. Its grandeur reflects  the devotion of the people.

Quite suburban, apart form the huge limestone back drop and the water lapping under neath. 

Some of the footings were wood like this, but some were concrete.

After our exploration of the village we felt like a bit of adventure and ventured forth in our little dinghy with its 3.3hp motor in search of a famous cave that was supposed to be nearby. Our directions were a bit sketchy, but we thought we would just go in the same direction as the tourist boats. The cave was to be found at the end of mangrove tunnel. How hard could it be? Remember the old ledger? Well....

This could be the mangrove tunnel we're looking for.....

 We bravely turned into a tunnel that looked promising. It twisted and turned this way and that. It got narrower and darker as the mangroves leaned in to block the sky.
 "It's got to be just around the next corner surely?"
 "Maybe just around here?"
We could see where we needed to go, or thought we did , but each corner took us in the wrong direction.

Maybe around this corner?

It was getting late in the afternoon and we were getting further away and deeper into the dark mangroves. Mangroves that stretched out for miles and miles. We started to say half joking
 "Lost in the mangroves. Never to be seen again!"
(nervous laugh)

Putting on a brave smile while thinking OMG we're running out of fuel!
 The little motor was running hot and running out of fuel. We had a small jerry of fuel, but no radio, GPS, water, food or mosquito repellent. Finally we gave up, and although we had come miles we decided to retrace our steps and hope the fuel would last the distance. It would be a long hard row all the way back to the boat if we ran out.

At last we saw open water through a gap in the mangroves. We were back into familiar territory.!

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Before long we were in the wide open river with the tourist boats zooming past. We never did find the cave, but it didn't matter. We'd seen enough mangroves to last us a long time!

Tourist boats constantly ferrying people to see the sights.

On the way back we could see the other side of the village with its legendary floating football field, school and hospital. The football field started with some kids desperate for some flat ground to play football. Originally they started putting together floating bits of wood, but now it is much more sophisticated with floating plastic buoyancy. The Panyee Football Club now is one of Thailand's strong youth teams.

The other side of Pan Yi snugged against the huge limestone island,

The football field

This house is for tourists to stay, we think.

The hospital. Accessible only by boat, of course.

Rob was quite taken with this house with its picket fence and two car (boat) garage.
We had never been happier to get back to the boat. the little motor did a great job ad the fuel lasted. You would think after all these years of cruising and boating that we would be a little more prepared! But then it wouldn't have been half the adventure.

From Pan Yi we explored more of the northern end of Phang Gna Bay, but found the anchorages difficult because of swirling winds and waters. We happened to have hit spring tides so the boat was in a constant battle between wind and tide. Koh Yai Noi was the best as it wasn't as steep sided as the other anchorages, so wasn't subject to wind bullets. There is still plenty to explore in this area and we still think the wet season is the best time to do it. I can't imagine what 3000 tourists at Sea Gypsy Village would look or feel like!